Edino Krieger's solo piano works from the 1950s : a dialectical synthesis in Brazilian musical modernism



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It is possible to identify a dialectic of disparate elements in tension during the search for a Brazilian national aesthetics: on the one hand there is the regionalismo (emphasis on regional characteristics, a term taken from a literary tendency of the 1910s and 1920s), which still uses standard techniques, at the other extreme there are cosmopolitan movements such as the dadaism or futurism. One should also mention the nationalistic primitivism of Mário de Andrade’s Macunaíma and Oswald de Andrade’s Manifesto da Poesia Pau-Brasil and contrast it to the “universal,” “hightech” twelve-tone technique of the 1940s. In my opinion, one of the syntheses that resulted from this dialectical process was the neo-classicism of the 1950s, especially that of Edino Krieger, whose work forms the basis of this discussion. I first pay attention to Edino Krieger’s place in the aesthetic-historical context of Brazilian musical nationalism. By way of introduction, this work traces the origins of this cultural trend as it emerged from earlier examples of Romantic Nationalism, with reference to works by Brasílio Itiberê, Alexandre Levy and Alberto Nepomuceno, still based on European models. I then review the advent of the Week of Modern Art in 1922, and finally the musical experiments of the 1940s, represented mainly by the group Música Viva. All these elements are interrelated and together form Edino Krieger’s background. In my opinion, Edino Krieger’s piano works from the 1950s found a perfect compositional balance and can be considered one of the highest achievements in twentieth-century Brazil. Modal elements in the varied Brazilian folk traditions are a consequence of Gregorian chant used by the Jesuits during the colonization of Brazil. The modal language used by Krieger connects us therefore not only with Brazilian folk sources, but also with early music history. Krieger’s polyphonic treatment of the Brazilian material can be compared to Villa-Lobos’ great cycle Bachianas Brasileiras. While Villa-Lobos mastered a perfect union of two completely different musical cultures, one may also conclude that Edino Krieger mastered an original synthesis of the music created since the early periods of history, combined with Brazilian elements.